The Cincinnati Reds have one of the top farm systems in baseball. It’s led by a group of players close to the big leagues, or in some cases already there. Matt McLain has been on fire since joining the Reds two weeks ago. Elly De La Cruz is the top prospect in the game and the talk of baseball despite not even being in the big leagues yet. Christian Encarnacion-Strand has 13 home runs and is hitting .341 in 31 games for Louisville. We could keep going, but you get the point – there’s plenty to like within the system at the top.

But in less than a week there’s going to be a new group of prospects that are getting on the field in games that count for the first time this year. On Monday the Dominican Summer League and the Arizona Complex League seasons will begin. Two years ago at this time there was a prospect that seemingly came out of nowhere, who was on just about no ones radar, and was the talk of extended spring training and after just two weeks in the Arizona Complex League was promoted to Single-A Daytona after making a mockery of the league. That player was Elly De La Cruz, and well, he’s never looked back.

While what Elly De La Cruz did then isn’t something you should ever expect to see again, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to look forward to starting next week. And one prospect out in Arizona is already catching eyes and earning some praise. Zach Buchanan, who used to cover the Reds here in Cincinnati, now is one of the lead prospect writers at The Athletic. In a piece he published this morning he had notes from a scout on 18-year-old Carlos Sanchez.

This isn’t a case where Carlos Sanchez is coming out of nowhere to those who follow the farm system. As a 17-year-old he hit .355/.506/.442 in the Dominican Summer League last year with 40 walks and 28 strikeouts in 46 games. He also stole 14 bases. While not a big-dollar signing in January of 2022, he was a big time performer and the tools showed better than expected from when he signed.

While the scout incorrectly stated that Sanchez was exclusively an outfielder last season (he played 27 games in right field and another 18 at third base), he notes that Sanchez has been playing shortstop this spring out in Arizona. That’s interesting on a few different levels. First is that last year at third base Sanchez was very bad. He made 11 errors in 18 games and posted a .788 fielding percentage.

As I wrote back in January about Sanchez – he’s got plenty of arm strength. The issue wasn’t that he couldn’t make the throw from third base, it was just a matter of accuracy and consistency. We also need to remember that he was basically the age of a high school junior and so was his first baseman most days, so it’s likely that over time some of those errors would go away simply because of a better first baseman and better fields. With that said, there needs to be a big improvement on the defensive front. It’s not rare to see that happen from 17-year-olds as they continue to get reps, practice, and game experience.

It will be interesting to see how much time at shortstop he winds up getting during the games out in Arizona. The reason for that is because Ricardo Cabrera also plays shortstop. He was the top signing in 2022, ranking third overall in the entire class by multiple publications, and was arguably the top international signing by the Reds in decades (non-Cuban professional division).

Cabrera got out to a terrible start to his career. During the first month he hit .120/.274/.200. It was about as bad a start as you could imagine for a guy who was so highly touted. But when July began it was like a light switch was flipped and everything improved. From the start of July through the end of the season he hit .314/.403/.461 and looked like the player everyone had expected to see.

Another player to keep an eye on who will be in Arizona is Esmith Pineda. One of the top signings last year by the Reds, he only had a chance to play in 15 games before an injury cost him the rest of the season. In those 15 games, though, he crushed the ball for the DSL Reds. In his 57 plate appearances he hit .367/.456/.592 with three home runs – leading the team despite just over two weeks of play. The outfielder also had seven walks with just nine strikeouts. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of him on the field this summer than we did last year.

If we head down to the Dominican Summer League it’s tougher to really point at past performance because most of the guys there will be making their professional debuts. But there’s one guy that stands out among the crowd and it’s catcher Alfredo Duno. He, like Cabrera the year before, was among the best prospects in the entire signing class in baseball. Duno got the largest signing bonus given by the Reds to a non-Cuban professional on the international side of signings ever.

The catcher is a potential 5-tool player. Usually the speed keeps catchers from being 5-tool guys, but Duno is fast despite being 6′ 2″ and 210 lbs. He’s got a big time arm behind the plate. At the plate he shows off excellent bat speed and plenty of raw power that he could tap into down the line.

The other player to keep an eye on early in the season is probably Alfredo Alcantara. He was the next biggest signing from the organization back in January. A shortstop with solid defensive tools, he’s also shown some ability at the plate. You never really know how it’ll go until the games get going, but the scouting reports are good here.

26 Responses

  1. Harold

    Sounds like they just keep on coming. What a wonderful problem to have. The Reds can be great again. Keep signing these great prospects!!! The next few year could be very interesting.

  2. mac624

    Exciting times in terms of potential and with a lot of payroll flexibility coming in 2024, there’s a lot to feel excited about when it comes to the Reds for once. The only real fear in my mind is not whether these guys will play and succeed, I think that’s going to happen. Maybe not all these guys, but enough of them will make the Reds a very competitive team. My real fear is still ownership, and do they have what it takes to go get a guy or two if needed to put the Reds into a legit contender position? I will admit, I’d feel a lot better about the long-term success of this franchise if there were different owners, but as a Reds fan, I’m used to having fears and questions I guess.

    • Deano

      You can’t trust what ownership will do. If they can get a penny from an over the hill player out there…..they will do it !

  3. David

    I have noticed that Cam Collier, just 18 and playing at Low A Daytona (Tortugas) is now hitting better.
    He started the season abysmally, but is now batting something like 0.237, which is a big improvement from where he was a few weeks ago (out on the interstate).

    Harder to evaluate is pitching, and pitching wins baseball games.

    • Max BRAGG

      Unfortunately the REDS and GM have firgot that we need Right Handed power from OF position. Why don’t we take 1 of 13 SS and make them a LF with a BIG time arm?

  4. wolfcycle

    The statement about pitching is very true. And some teams will overpay on just the potential from Dominican and other countries and the reds seem to use their money on position players for the most part. My guess is the percentage of misses is higher on pitchers in general, but, guys down there are super duper raw, have to go to a country where they do not know the language, and generally have to do a lot more changing of their mechanics. Just an opinion, but it is harder for pitchers.

    • Doug Gray

      It’s possible I am forgetting someone, but I don’t think that I am….. the Reds have only signed one pitcher that I can recall in the last two decades for more than $300,000 from the non-Cuba international signing group. That pitcher, literally, never threw a pitch in a game for them. And no, I do not mean for the Cincinnati Reds. He never pitched in a minor league game for them. He got hurt almost immediately and while he came back from that, he got hurt again and again. Never threw a single pitch in a game that counted in standings as a professional.

      • old-school

        Ahh…more than 300K… I think Cueto was like 10K. that turned out ok.

      • David

        Ditto. Thinking of Johnny Cueto, and also a couple of other guys.

        Jose Rijo (although the Reds got him from the A’s) and Joaquin Andujar, who was in the Reds farm system, traded to the Astros, where he did pretty good.

      • Doug Gray

        You seem to be missing the signing bonus portion of this comment. Or the time frame.

  5. Tim

    I check this site regularly looking for the announcement that EDLC an CES are coming up. I will happily make the drive from Nashville to see that.

    • LarkinPhillips

      I told my wife that we would go to Cincinnati this weekend if EDLC is called up. I live in bristol TN. A 6 hour drive one way.

    • Greenfield Red

      My opinion, CES needs more work on his strike zone management. He has got to walk more or he will not see any strikes in MLB and will end up striking out a ton.

      • Mario

        We just saw Patrick Wisdom hit a few homers. I think he has 14 homers now and the Bally broadcast mentioned he has a 38% strike out rate. Might be a good comp for CES. There are plenty of guys in MLB with high strikeout and low walk rates that are still productive. Brandon Drury has maybe 7 BB’s this season and he is doing ok. Luis Robert from the White Sox is another – he’s a possible all star. It’s not the end all be all. EDLC is going to strike out a lot in MLB. He is 6’5” and has a huge strike zone.

      • David

        I think CES strikes out a lot, because even in AAA, pitchers don’t pitch to him now. And so, he has expanded his strike zone. I think he is a smart guy, and is also batting .346 in AAA. So he does make some contact, out there somewhere.

        A lot of power hitters do that, knowing that they can handle some pitches out of the zone if they know what’s coming.
        EDLC is a tall guy, but also has tremendous bat speed. So yes, he does have a big strike zone to cover. He’s not going to be confused with Joe Morgan.
        Adam Dunn struck out something like 206 times in one season, as I recall. And not now or ever was a big Adam Dunn fan, but power hitters will strike out more than single and double hitters.

      • Mike in Ottawa

        I would be fine with a high SO rate of the hitter still hit .330+, with good power numbers.

      • jmb

        Yes, no need to rush him. He’ll be up soon enough. This team kind of reminds me of the ’85 Cardinals, though perhaps not as fast and not as good defensively. But CES will be the Jack Clark of the team, the one guy who hits lots of long balls. Except that with EDLC the Reds will have two Jack Clarks. I’d love to see the Reds get Ruiz from the A’s to play center. He would be the Vince Coleman of the team.

  6. Greenfield Red

    Carlos Jorge is putting together another really good year… in full season ball for the first time. It’s hard to argue with his statistics.

  7. AllTheHype

    Very exciting having such an abundance of talent in the organization. After we promote many of our tope prospects this year, we could still very plausibly still have a top ten system next year.

    Rule 4 drafting in the past few years has been incredibly good, as has international scouting.

  8. SultanofSwaff

    One of the true tests of player development, something the Cardinals have done for a couple decades now, is to identify and develop players internationally as well as outside the first round. I feel like the Reds are doing better in this respect than at any time I can recall. Just having depth pieces that can insulate against losses stacking up because of injury or non-performance can have a huge benefit. Suddenly you’re not throwing away real money on aging veterans and there’s more money to spend on extending core players (this of course assumes ownership operates NORMALLY). It’s a virtuous feedback loop that can create sustained success. Let’s hope it continues……we’ve suffered long enough!

  9. Mark Moore

    MattyMc = NL Player of the Week!!! He definitely earned it.

  10. Redsvol

    Doug – just an excellent, excellent report on the young guys playing in Arizona and Dominica this summer.

    I had forgotten about Pineda. What exactly was his injury? Balcazar had an excellent year in 2022 and I am still bummed about him tearing his knee up this year – that can ruin a career, especially for a middle infielder. Hopefully he rehabs very hard.

    Interesting comments about pitching signings. The Reds definitely aren’t interested to sign latin american pitchers for high $. Hard to argue with their philosophy. Go position player where athletic ability is probably easier to see than pitching potential.

  11. Dean

    Doug, I commented on another of your stories that June 19th is when EDLC will get called up. Start of a homestead and safe enough from quitting for Super2 status. Agree?